Returned U.S. Army prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is seeking pardon from President Barack Obama in the waning days of the Obama administration. Bergdahl, who abandoned his post in Afghanistan in 2009, has been subject to harsh criticism from President-elect Donald Trump on the campaign trail.
"We're tired of Sgt. Bergdahl, who's a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed," Trump told a Las Vegas, Nevada, rally in October, notes Fox News. "Thirty years ago, he would have been shot."
Bergdahl was caught by the Taliban after he abandoned his post in June 2009, and was subsequently held prisoner for five years. In 2014, the Obama administration negotiated a prisoner swap for Bergdahl in exchange for the release of five Taliban commanders -- a move Trump has routinely criticized.
Following Bergdahl’s return, he was charged with desertion and misbehavior in March 2015. He will face a court-martial in February 2017.
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"We're deadly serious about seeking a dismissal," Eugene R. Fidell, Bergdahl’s lawyer, told the Fayetteville Observer. "There's never been a presidential candidate who singled out a military member for this kind of abuse before. It's never happened."
Rachel VanLandingham, an associate professor at the Southwestern Law School, chimed in:
If there's a perception that the president has already made a decision of a person's guilt or innocence ... in a court-martial, then that case should be thrown out because it's fatally flawed.
Since individuals in the military are so sensitive of command influence, if their commander has made a statement regarding the guilt of the accused - in this case, many statements - then the entire court-martial is fatally flawed. The damage has been done. I have a hard time seeing how this could be whitewashed at this time.
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“I have grave concerns as to whether Sergeant Bergdahl can receive a fair trial given the beating he has taken over many months from Mr. Trump, who will be commander in chief, as well as Senator McCain’s call for a hearing in case Sergeant Bergdahl is not punished,” Fidell concluded, notes The New York Times. “It is really most unfair.”